Realignment, The UIL, and Other Notes…………By RC

High school sports in the Great State of Texas. The state championship football games, state basketball tournaments, state track and field meets, and state baseball and softball championship: nothing emphasizes or defines high school sports in the Lone Star State quite like these revered events.

The only thing that comes close is the day of reckoning wrought on the public schools ofTexasevery other February by the UIL, which is known as realignment day. When that day finally arrives after months of anticipation only the thrill of being placed in a district where success is almost guaranteed or the agony of being assigned to a district that almost guarantees struggle, can truly describe the emotions of coaches, superintendents, athletes, and communities in general………………..

The University Interscholastic League is mostly the bad guy here, but sometimes, and rarely sometimes, the good guy. It never fails that so many of the member schools cannot understand why they had to put the enrollment numbers, that determines classifications, where they did.

Even though those same schools know the formula and intent of the UIL, it always seems so irrational and inconceivable when the negative effect is bestowed upon them. Most of these schools are the ones who end up among the 20 to 25 smallest schools in their respective class assignment. But when the opposite occurs is when all is well with the UIL…………………..

And then travel is an absolute nightmare and headache for those in the realigning business. EspeciallyWest Texas! If you haven’t driven through this region of the state where agriculture and oil once spawned vibrant communities then take a road trip and see just how many of these villages have fallen at least two or more classifications in the last decade or so.

Matching teams with like enrollment in this part of Texas and keeping them within a couple of hours of driving distance from one another is all but impossible. But don’t just blame the folks down in Austin for long road trips, ask any athletic director who is trying to schedule non-district games in the same area code and also has to consider how well his teams can compete, just how difficult this process can be. It simply is getting tougher for the schools in these sparse regions of the state……………….

There have been some pretty unbelievable stories come out of this necessary evil through the years. Some ten years ago or so, a couple of teams out in the El Paso area had filed an appeal because they were in the same district and were separated by almost 250 miles. They lost their appeal, but a team on the north side of Houston appealed because they were the lone member of a district where the other seven members were on the south side. They won their appeal.

There have been teams in the El Paso area who only had 3A enrollment yet appealed to the UIL to allow them to compete in 5A so as not to have to drive those 250 or so, miles. Most coaches have more than one story to tell about realignment…………

And to add to the stress level, each district is required to assemble and set up the district bylaws according to the UIL. Each school has its own set of proposals on everything from gate receipts to who hosts or isn’t allowed to host different events. Sometimes when two schools who have a long history of being bitter rivals end up in the same district, it can get pretty interesting attending one of those organizational meetings……………..

Up above I mentioned that for some schools, dropping a classification is reason for jubilation. However that jubilation can be short lived once the competition begins. More often than not those schools who drop down find out that being one of the largest, if not the largest school in their class, region, or district does not automatically insure instant success.

A few years ago when it was rumored that Brownwood would be dropping into Class 3A after years of being one of the most successful and prominent programs in 4A, a friend of mine from Lion country said that some of the Lion faithful were getting a little cocky about the thought of that storied program going 3A.

He said that he had even heard one of the boosters proclaim that if Brownwood dropped into 3A, it would be like Howard Payne University having to play the University of Texas. A losing record accompanied the Lions into their first year in 3A.

Yes they have recovered rather nicely but the drop doesn’t automatically spell success. Another bad misperception is that when a small 11-man school drops into six-man that they will just take names and kick tails. I can assure you this is not the case. For one thing it takes a year or two to get acclimated to six-man ball, but also many of those six-man schools suit up those old raw boned country kids who back down from no one. So the message here is to watch what you wish for on realignment day. ………………………..

I mentioned the sparsely populated West Texas regions earlier. Just as menacing for the UIL to assign districts in these areas, is the assigning of districts in the heavily populated metropolitan areas. It seems like a new high school opens in those places every week.

It is unbelievable how the suburbs of the large cities such as Dallas, San Antonio, Houston etc. who just a few years ago just had the one high school now have as many as eight schools. Anyhow this is where the realignment actually begins and those areas facing population deficits usually end up with the leftovers. Don’t look for that to change………………………

There was a belief a few years back that a 6A classification would be added. Before I go any farther, let me say that the UIL is not a dictatorial agency: they really do get their marching orders from the member schools. Before any changes can be made there is a vote of the superintendents, who in most cases consult with their athletic and academic directors before casting their votes. Sport is not the only category as I implied, but academic competition also falls under their jurisdiction as well. With that said, the superintendents voted not to add that classification…………………..

If it were left to me, imagine that: them leaving it to me, I would add another level to Class A. That would be the addition of 8-man football. We have played that game in Texas before. I know because that is all that I ever played. It is a game with the same rules as 11-man with the exception of the size of the playing field. Two offensive linemen are missing as well as one member of the backfield.

Those teams like Rotan who just dropped to six-man would be a good example of who belongs. Instead of two divisions of six-man, the larger schools could opt for the 8-man game. Each could crown a state champion and wouldn’t that be a breath of fresh air with only one state champion instead of two……………….

I will close this one out saying to all you folks who believe that you have been wronged due to incorrect counting by schools, mileage requirements, and because you just flat out don’t like your district members, just wait, in two years we will do this again. And those of you who are still celebrating over your new assignment, enjoy because in two years that thrill could very well turn to agony……

About Ronnie Clifton

Ronnie Clifton was a Texas Football Coach for 29 years. In addition to football, Clifton also served as the head coach in basketball and both girls and boys track. “I loved being involved in and playing sports as a kid, and I soaked up every ounce of available information about any sporting event; I also love to write. What better combo for me than becoming the writer of a sports blog?”
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